Early Christmas present for Belper

Preston 2

Belper Hockey Club Men’s 1sts 6

Belper managed to beat the elements on Sunday to take on rivals Preston in their last league fixture of 2012.

This also happened to be the first return fixture of the season with the Nailers having won the previous encounter at the Meadows.

Belper were lucky to be able to take a full squad for the second successive week, allowing coach Duncan Woods to pick his strongest side. The back four remained the same as the previous week’s cup game with Jake Bullock retaining his place alongside James Blackwell at the heart of the Belper defence, flanked by Sam Hawkes and Ben Inshaw.

The midfield also remained the same with Batten, Kitchen and Ebbage filling their usual spaces across the pitch. Leading scorer Ben Walton returned to the line-up and was partnered by Cassidy and Lingeswaren in attack.

Belper started the game with pace and intent. Immediately from the push back, the ball was moved around the Belper side and eventually to into the back four.

From here, Blackwell was able to carry the ball forward without too much pressure and pick a beautiful long-range pass to Cassidy who evaded his marker to deftly deflect the ball over the onrushing ‘keeper. The ball was then finished into the goal by Ben Walton to give his side an early lead in the first minute.

Delighted with their start, Belper looked to impose themselves on the game and this is exactly what they did. Their passing and movement complimented the good decision making that has been worked on in training, to display some of the best hockey the Derbyshire side has played this season. Lingeswaren was able to create a couple of chances and Sherratt was unlucky not to extend his side’s lead.

However, the home side were not keen to see Belper have it all their own way with a couple of chances being generated by their prolific midfielder Adam Wilson. From one such attack, an unmarked David Greenough was able to pull his side level from a well delivered dead ball scenario.

The game entered a scrappy patch with both sides feeling they had the measure of their opposition and it took a fantastic goalline clearance from Ben Inshaw to keep the scores level.

From the resulting long corner, Mark Lamb made a timely tackle and released the ball to Blackwell who was fouled by a backtracking Preston player. Blackwell wasted no time in taking his free hit and throwing a magnificent aerial into the Preston defence. Stretched from their recent attacks, the Preston defender receiving the ball misjudged it and completely missed the ball. Cassidy who had gambled and made his lead behind the defender was able to pick the ball up unhindered and finish clinically to give his side the lead in the 23rd minute.

Belper immediately went on the counter from the resultant pushback and excellent work by Lingeswaren and Walton presented Cassidy with another opportunity after a quick passing move exposed the Preston defence. Cassidy made no mistake from just a few yards out to give his side a two goal cushion in the 25th minute

A remarkable six minutes followed where Belper played some great hockey and were rewarded with two further goals for Ben Walton to help him complete his hat-trick. The first arrived in the 27th minute as Ben was able to turn and shoot past the Preston ‘keeper from ten yards. A short corner rebound in the 31st minute allowed Walton to secure his hat-trick and give his side a 1 – 5 advantage at half time.

An elated Belper side went into the half time break feeling justifiably confident that they could build on their first half performance and post a significant score. Coach Woods was keen for Belper to maintain the strong performance and continue with the push passing moves that had worked so well in the first half.

Preston came out for the second half determined that there would be no repeat of their performance in the first half and pressed immediately from the restart with Slane having to save a Wilson penalty corner and kick clear another Preston effort.

Belper were still making ground on the Preston side on the counter with Blackwell and Ebbage particularly effective. However, the ball was being carried by too many players when the best option was a pass. This lead to a very congested Preston defence that the Belper side found difficult to break down.

They were rewarded for their patience with a pair of penalty corners. A flicked effort was well saved by the Preston ‘keeper but a re-award as given after the rebound hit a defender on the foot. On this occasion the routine was not as slick as it could have been but Blackwell was able to force the rebound over the line to extend the score to 1 – 6.

Preston battled back and managed to get another goal back from a Wilson penalty corner in the 52nd minute. This was to be the end of the scoring as the game developed into a scrappy affair. Belper continued to generate chances but found the opposition much more difficult to break down than in the first half. Palmer made some excellent chances but was unlucky to see his efforts saved by the home ‘keeper.

As the game ended, the Belper players were able to look forward to the remainder of the season after battling their way to the fourth spot in the league.

Hat-trick forward Ben Walton was keen to thanks his teammates after the game; “It was a great result today as we always knew that Preston were a difficult team to play against and could threaten our goal. It was great to get three goals today and really stamp our authority on the game early doors as a team and then to build on it and allow the forwards to have the time and space to put away our chances.”

Belper now have a break from the National league but will attempt to qualify for the indoor National League through the Midlands qualifier on December 15, before the outdoor programme resumes at the start of February.

Belper mens 1st XI would like to thank all their supporters for their support and help in 2012 and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.